If you love playing with your voice and have since developed the ability to control and manipulate it in various ways, then you have likely thought of pursuing a career in voice acting. But just like most professions, being a voice actor doesn’t only require natural talent. In order to become successful in this highly competitive field, constant training and hard work are also necessary. Read on to find out more about the world of voice acting and see if it’s something you want to take a shot at.
Is voice acting a real job?
Yes. Voice acting is a real job. Voice acting is a type of performance in which only the voice is used to portray characters or provide information to an audience. Voice acting performers are called voice actors, voice artists, voice talent, or dubbing artists.
Despite the rise of AI voice acting, industry experts say that demand for human voice actors remains high, thanks in part to the efficiency of video blogs and interactive videos used by several businesses for their social media video marketing. “Corporate demand for voice talent is growing, and keeping the talent pipeline flowing with quality voice talent is [a] top priority,” said David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices — the world’s leading voiceover marketplace — in January 2023.
What are the different types of voice work?
While animated movies and TV series are the first two things to come to mind when people think of voice acting work, there are several other jobs for voice actors. Below are the most common types of voice work:
Animated movies and TV series
Animated films and TV shows are probably the most popular type of voiceover acting. These include major animated theatrical releases like Disney’s Frozen and The Incredibles as well as Universal Pictures’ Minions and The Secret Life of Pets. Also included in this category are children’s series such as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Paramount+’s Star Trek: Prodigy. Anime series like One Piece and Naruto, as well as adult-oriented programs like BoJack Horseman, Bob’s Burgers, and Family Guy also fall into this category.
Live-action and documentary films and shows
Although live-action and documentary movies and TV shows feature traditional actors, these projects also cast voice actors to provide voice acting work, especially narration.
Dubbed foreign-language movies and TV series
With the increasing demand for overseas content like South Korean films and TV shows, there has also been an influx of dubbing jobs in many countries. Dubbing a translated movie or a TV show requires a significant amount of effort from a voice actor. In addition to the regular work of voiceover, this particular type of voice acting demands precise timing and intonation to match the lip movements of the actor speaking in a foreign language on screen.
Much like voice acting for animated movies and TV series, voiceover work in video games involves more acting than narrating. However, in contrast to animated films and TV shows, the focus on video game voice acting is mostly on recording specific vocal prompts as a character, rather than recording an entire story or dialogue between characters. Although that is also part of the work, especially for story-driven video games like The Last of Us, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Voice actors are still widely employed in commercials. The tone of the voice in a commercial typically varies depending on the brand and the nature of the ad, with some being cheerful and lively, and others being solemn and motivational. While commercials are getting more unique than ever, a lot of ads still feature voiceovers, as the use of a professional voice actor is an effective way to convey information about a product or service while it is displayed on the screen.
The rise of digital platforms like Audible has led to an increase in the popularity of audiobooks. While some audiobooks are read by their authors, other productions recruit voice actors to narrate the events happening in the book and even portray different characters to add excitement and emotion to the story.
Corporate training and e-learning
Some companies hire voice actors to create audio product guides or record voiceovers for corporate videos, which can include narrating policies and training sessions.
How much money do voice actors make?
According to employment marketplace ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a voice actor in the United States is approximately $38 an hour as of February 2023. This rate, however, is not fixed and can vary depending on different factors such as location, industry, time of voiceover, union or non-union status, and others. For instance, some voice actors, especially those who already have an established name in the entertainment industry, can earn millions for a voice role in a film or TV series.
But as mentioned above, there are various forms of voice acting work available for everyone. So, if you’re new to voice acting and earn less than $38 an hour, don’t be discouraged as your rate will increase as you get more experience.
Do you need qualifications for voice acting?
Yes. Just like any other job, voice acting requires a particular set of skills, and these are as follows:
Voice actors articulate words and sentences with correct enunciation, pronunciation, intonation, and pace so that their audience can easily understand what they’re saying.
Although an experience in acting is not necessary to get into voice acting, aspiring voice actors must learn how to sound believable at all times, especially if they are playing a certain role in a story-centric project. Whether or not you have a natural talent for getting into character, it is recommended that you constantly enhance your acting skills through training as you’ll never know what kind of voice role you will do next. Beginners might consider working with a voiceover coach or enrolling to a voice class, as acting inside a recording booth is a completely different experience from acting in front of cameras. The latter allows you to rely on physical movements and facial expressions to relay your message, while the former appears to be more challenging, as you only have your voice to get the job done.
It is very important for voice actors to have a good understanding of the latest gadgets and software used in the industry. While one need not necessarily be an expert, it is crucial for voice actors to know how to use basic recording equipment such as microphones, headphones, and audio interfaces. Those who know how to record, mix, and master digital audio files can not only operate their home recording studio more efficiently but can also distinguish themselves from other voice actors who have not yet developed their audio engineering skills.
Since most voice actors work remotely on a freelance basis, much of the communication and transactions with clients occur online through email, chat, or instant messaging platforms. So, with clients often expecting quick turnaround times of 24-48 hours, voice actors are expected to be adept and comfortable working with technology to complete projects on time.
Voice actors are entrepreneurs, so they are expected to have adequate business know-how. It is important that voice actors have business skills because they are essentially selling their voices. Like any typical business owner, voice actors are responsible for all aspects of their business, including sales, marketing, customer service, and accounting. Aside from doing the actual voice work, voice actors also spend much of their time and effort promoting their service and growing their client base. Many voice actors accomplish this by creating a website of their own or profiles on voice acting employment platforms like Voices.
How do I get into voice acting?
To jumpstart your career in voice acting, here are some helpful tips:
Improve your craft
Voice acting is just as legitimate as traditional acting. So, in order to get better at it, you must continuously develop and hone your skills. Although some successful voice actors have not undergone formal training, you may choose to hire a voice coach or take an acting class. With a voice coach, you’ll receive personalized feedback and tips that you can apply to the projects you are working on. Attending an acting class, on the other hand, will help you perform a wider variety of roles. But regardless of how you want to develop your voice acting skills, remember that consistent practice and improving your craft are crucial to be successful in the field.
Find your niche
While it’s not mandatory to have a specific niche as a voice actor, it’s important to identify areas in which your voice excels. For instance, character voice acting and commercial voice acting require two different skill sets. Determining what you’re good at helps you find jobs that are more suitable to your skill set. Although there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to restrict yourself, it’s ideal that you find your niche because you need to start somewhere.
Create a demo reel
Creating a demo reel is the first step towards obtaining actual voice acting jobs. A demo reel is essentially a compilation of the various voices and tones you can portray, which casting directors utilize to evaluate your abilities and range. Your demo reel can also assist you in finding representation from an agent who can help you acquire jobs. Keep in mind that your demo reel serves as your portfolio as a voice actor, so creating a strong one is a must, even if you don’t have professional voice acting experience yet.
Audition as much as you can
Frequent auditioning is the key to securing voice acting jobs. Apply for roles that align with your vocal abilities, while also setting achievable targets for the number of voiceover jobs you plan to audition for on a regular basis. Establishing a weekly or monthly quota can hold you accountable and make progress in your career. There are various approaches to the audition process. If you have an agent, they will assist you in identifying opportunities. Additionally, you can search for open casting calls on job boards or websites such as Voices and Backstage.
Although talent is the primary factor in securing voice acting roles, having a wide professional network can be advantageous. Forming genuine connections with people in the voice acting industry can help you land more jobs, as you can refer work to each other when your schedules are full. But you must keep in mind that networking is reciprocal: if you receive assistance from others, you should also strive to support them whenever possible.